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May 27, 2016

FFGTGR: How To Talk With Kids About Captain America Being Hydra

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Written by: Drew
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From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No. 192

Hello, and welcome back to our all-ages comics column in these parts, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays!

This week I was planning on reviewing DC’s Future Quest and Netflix’s original Kong: King of Apes TV series, however, sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men get derailed, right? Suddenly a topic became pretty clear, and no matter which direction I turned to, I couldn’t escape; hell, I felt something strong about it, too.


By now, thanks to major news outlets, legions of angry fans on twitter, or maybe you just read it yourself, we all know Captain America at the end of his latest issue turns out to be just a plain old Nazi, apparently having been a sleeper agent for HYDRA all these years. The outpouring of emotion obviously to such a thing has been immense the past few days.

Initially, like many of you, I was first told by a friend, had a gut reaction, and then went and read the issue. Now, yes, we can point out things in the issue that might make this all seem like a set-up, but Marvel was sticking by its guns on Wednesday saying this was legit Steve Rogers. And there in lies the issue for most: Captain America, symbol of our nation, of our military, of pure never-back-down justice, not to mention created by Simon and Kirby, two Jewish men, nothing more than a Nazi all this time! No matter what, symbolically it is the biggest slap in the face ever to 70 plus years of storytelling. This isn’t just killing Superman, or Doctor Octopus taking over Spider-Man’s body; symbolically it is much worse, and Marvel has written themselves into a PR nightmare, which I’m sure they’ll retcon since the reaction is so negative.

All of this even more ironic is that Marvel continues to subvert their characters, and on the same day DC is trying to correct the subversion of their characters with a relaunch focused on hope and legacy (but that’s another article in itself).

Oh, and did we mention it is Memorial Day weekend that Marvel decided to time this issue for?

So here’s the blessing and curse of writing a kids’ column. Parents reach out to you and ask for advice on what to read and such. Well, by early Thursday evening, I have seen numerous e-mails, been texted, and asked by those who know me personally, basically all asking the same thing: How do I explain to my child that Captain America, whom they look up to, is now a Nazi, a symbol of prejudice and evil?

So, I don’t actually have advice on parenting. I know what I believe a parent should do, but it’s a quagmire for me to start spouting off parenting tips since everyone is different (though I totally always can tell you what title is kid friendly to read and do!). So I cannot actually answer this question fairly. But I can say this – I was a child of the 1980s/1990s, and when Superman died, a lot of kids were asking, “But how could Superman be killed?” Again, this isn’t that to a full extent, but very similar in ways of subverting to the extreme of what a symbol stands for. When he died I remember parents saying to kids all sorts of things. Some told them to hold out hope, Superman will prevail and be back. Some told them it was how life goes, unfortunately, and not everyone gets a happy ending. Some kids I knew actually stopped reading comics altogether when Superman was killed; it killed fantasy and hope for them, and comics lost their appeal (and they may all work for the IRS now, I dunno, I’m unsure their fates).

So what am I trying to say here? You have to find the right lesson you feel is right to talk to your child about if they ask you. If you want to boycott Marvel, do it. If you want to tell them to hold out hope and it’s all going to be reversed like a bad dream, do it!

The only thing I can strongly suggest is don’t have them give up on comics from this like I saw kids stop reading back during Superman’s death. Pick up another book, try and get them interested in something else. It’s a beautiful art form! Maybe it’s time to take a break from superheroes and get them into manga or even Franco-Belgian titles.

Fictional characters are fictional characters at the end of the day. They may be the work of writers, artists, and their imaginations, but we develop a love for those things to fill aspects in our lives. Despite them being just works of fiction, sometimes creative people in charge try to make statements or a splash, forgetting how everyday people feel, relax, and always need hope, and they betray the trust of fans. This will not be the first or last time this happens.

And hey, Nazi-Captain America might not be the Captain America we want, but he may be the Captain America we deserve. After all, Trump could be President in a few months.

See you next week, readers, with reviews being brought back for sure…unless Spider-Man turns out to be the Zodiac Killer. Or the X-Men work for ISIS. Or Iron Man organized the Cambodia Massacre. Or…you get the idea.

Drew McCabe